It has to be more than just the ‘Nineties bitches’ who have propelled Icona Pop to the top. The Swedish duo’s popularity spiked after the Charli XCX-featuring smash I Love It slo-mo exploded around the globe, and now comes their international debut album, This Is… Icona Pop. The rest of its songs employ much the same formula as I Love It.
Communal, shouty vocals and singalong choruses combined with house production make everything a potential radio hit, leaving the album’s main drawback as its homogeneity. But for the radio gods, the fact that every song features similar musical formulas and themes of youth and spontaneity doesn’t matter. This album is going to be huge and, for the most part, it deserves to be. Not only is it irresistibly danceable, but it’s tasteful, too.
The album starts with the one two punch of I Love It and All Night. While the untouchable former’s strength lay on the fact that not only did it tell a story of a reckless party, but one that happened as a result of a breakup, All Night is, well, only really about partying. There’s no emotional conflict, and there have been countless variations on the song’s chorus (“We can do this all night/yeah everything is alright”), but, in honour of I Love It’s most recognizable line, you don’t care. The fact that This Is… Icona Pop starts with the carefree I Love It acts as a command for the rest of the album; it’s as if the duo is telling you, the listener, to simply let go; something that, in and of itself, is important in a non-stop world.
All Night offers practice in letting go, but you don’t truly do so until clubby third track We Got The World, during which Icona Pop claims that “every day we celebrate just like we won”, echoing the cheerleader sentiments of, say, Sleigh Bells. Icona Pop’s songs aren’t as aggressive, emotionally complex or multidimensional as that band’s material, but both live shows are equally fun. And for the purposes of Icona Pop, having fun is all that matters. For a musical duo who champion cathartic behavior, arguably the least subtle method of emotional expression, you’re not going to get lyrics, themes, or even musical moments that floor or challenge. Essentially, asking for more than for the songs to be tasteful is essentially pointless, but taste is certainly something Icona Pop champion. Small moments make each song that much catchier, from the Neon Indian-like synths in In The Stars to the pseudo-motorik beat that introduces On A Roll.
Towards the end of the album, Icona Pop’s shtick tires a little. Even songs that are a little different, such as Just Another Night, a slow, emotional, at times stark and piano-laden number, still feature lines like “Nothing’s gonna keep us hostage”. Penultimate reggae-ish track Light Me Up and pop punk closer Then We Kiss are sure to inspire lighters in the air and jumping, respectively, at summer festivals, but in the context of 30 minutes’ worth of shouty songs, they don’t hit as hard. Yet, This Is… Icona Pop is a worthwhile listen because it doesn’t dumb down. It’s not trying to enlighten, either. It’s trying to help you get in touch with your body, with positive emotions, and yourself in general, which is surely worthy of praise.